Lowe’s: DIY Will Fade and Consumers Will Hire Pros for Smart-Home & Other Projects

Qualified professionals for smart-home and other housing projects are easy to find. Consumers will shed their DIY inclinations and hire contractors instead.

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I don’t usually look to Lowe’s Home Improvement for insights on housing and home automation. But Chris Langford, managing director of Lowe’s Ventures, wrote a really interesting piece recently called “The Future of the Home.”

In it, the leader of Lowe’s venture-capital arm offered four hypotheses concerning housing trends and the impact on consumers and businesses alike. All of these propositions – which in my opinion are completely correct – will affect the home-technology industry as we know it.

Langford’s first three bullet points are interesting, but the fourth one really resonates.

1. Housing-as-a-service

Data shows people value home ownership less than ever, preferring a “maintenance-free lifestyle” instead. Home ownership is a drag, just like car ownership is a drag. Uber-type services today and autonomous vehicles tomorrow will reduce car ownership. Likewise, home-ownership will drop as rental services improve.

We once asked: Will Builders Subsidize Smart Homes in Exchange for IoT Data? Maybe so.

2. Smart-home eventuality

This is the only section of Langford’s piece that doesn’t work for me, especially since he notes that smart-home solutions have been around for “more than a decade,” and I personally have been doing it for 25 years.

Still, he points to one inhibitor of smart-home adoption that rings true: “lack of a solution selling model that enables people to understand the utility of a smart home.”

There might have been a model before, but now consumers are paralyzed by the myriad choices. Time for CE pros to up their selling skills. In particular, pros need to advise consumers that wireless is not the best option in the long term. While builders like Lennar sell new home buyers on the future of wireless, nothing will beat a wired infrastructure today and moreso in the future. Let's get our pitches right.

3. Robotic construction

Langford posits (correctly) that home-building will become more mechanized and roboticized: “Building modular and pre-fabricated homes enable builders to gain economies of scale that are not able to be employed when utilizing subcontracted, on-site building techniques.”

We need to ask ourselves: Where do we fit into the prefab housing model?

4. Rejecting DIY, embracing pros

This is the most interesting of Langford’s assessments. He proclaims: “The use of service providers to maintain and repair homes will increase.”

Back in the day, homeowners tended to maintain their abodes with their own hands, because they had the skills and it was hard to find qualified contractors. Today, home maintenance is a chore for time-pressed consumers and it is so easy to find qualified contractors that they may as well pawn it off.

Langford explains:

[T]he ability to find trusted service providers is increasing exponentially. A further benefit of being able to find service providers is that the cost of service should decrease thereby making outsourcing more attractive. With more and more people identifying as time constrained and lacking DIY skills, the likelihood of choosing to outsource home improvement tasks to a professional should rise drastically.

That’s what we need to ponder as an industry: The DIY movement for home improvements (including smart-home integration) is declining because it’s just too easy to hire a pro these days.

Pros are easy to find, vetted by customers and agencies, and available right away thanks to various on-demand services. So more consumers will enlist pros for various tasks they might have tackled on their own several years ago.

Bottom line: More consumers will be willing to pay for professional services like the ones offered by home-technology integrators. So the question becomes: How do we participate in this new economy? 

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
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Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson

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